Travers & Travers

What's driving the huge increase in gray divorce?

Divorce among older Americans, once something of a rarity, is becoming much more common. Over the past 25 years the rate of gray divorce has jumped significantly, with couples aged 50 and above now legally separating twice as often as before.

But what's driving this shift? Experts have a few ideas.

People are living longer, healthier lives

For the Baby Boomer generation, their life expectancy is a good deal longer than it was for previous generations. And oftentimes they're also healthier later in life. This new reality, according to Forbes, might be making older Americans more confident they still have the time to find true happiness after their marriage has eroded.

There is less stigma

There's no longer a stigma associated with divorce the same way there was just a few decades ago. That's true not just broadly in society, but with different religions as well, according to MarketWatch. Because of this, older married Americans may not feel the same pressure to remain together if it no longer makes sense.

Remarriage ends in divorce more often

The divorce rate among people who are on their second marriage or beyond is generally higher than couples in their first marriage. That holds true for adults over the age of 50 as well. In fact, statistics show the divorce rate for older Americans in remarriages is twice the rate for those who have wed just once.

Poor choices or behavior

One other suggestion is the toll a spouse's bad behavior can take on their partner. Cheating, for example, or years of poor financial decisions. These issues can build over time. The longer two people are together, the more this type of behavior might push them further apart. In some instances, a couple may choose to stay together only until their children are adults and out of the house, then divorce at that point in time.

A separation marks a significant life shift, no matter how old each spouse is or how long they've been together. There are some additional considerations for older Americans looking to divorce - particularly when it comes to valuable assets such as business interests or a retirement account. But as couples aged 50 and older are demonstrating, those potential hang-ups don't have to prevent someone from doing what feels right.

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